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You may notice a funny square code on the flyers around school that promote the new Multimedia Toolbox page of the MW Library Research Commons and wonder, what the heck is a QR code?

Unlike barcodes, often used for inventory-related functions, QR codes (QR = quick response) are more discover-atory in nature. By scanning a QR code with your smart phone, iPod touch, or iPad, your mobile device can play the trailer for movie or assembly instructions for an item you purchased; go to the download page for a song, podcast, e-book, or mobile app; display a digital coupon to use at the store you’re in; show you a restaurant or store location on a map; take you to the renewal page for your gym membership or on a virtual tour of the apartment for rent that you’re standing in front of, etc..

In addition to displaying a web site, video, or map, QR codes can also dial a phone number, pre-fill a Tweet or Facebook post, add an event to your calendar, and more.

  • Anyone can create a QR code for FREE. has a simple site for creating QR codes that send people to web sites. You’ll need a more sophisticated application to embed maps, text, etc., into a QR code.
  • QR codes can be shared on posters, product packaging, direct mail, business cards, t-shirts, campaign signs, and billboards, and via email, Twitter, or Facebook.
  • QR codes have been around for several years, but usage has skyrocketed in the last couple years as smartphones have become ubiquitous.
  • FREE QR code readers and creators abound. The application I used to test the QR code on the bookmarks is from TapMedia in the UK.

Does everyone own a device that can scan these yet? No. In fact, I don’t (thanks to Mrs. Chappell for letting me test the code on her phone). But now that you know what these wacky black and white boxes are, I bet you’ll start noticing them in art exhibits (Picasso at VMFA), in stores (like Best Buy), in magazine and newspaper ads, on signs in airports, and elsewhere. And now you’ll think, I know what that is! QR codes – demystified!

Oh, and in case you’re gazing at the QR code below and wondering – so if I scan the image on my computer screen with my smartphone, it’s going to launch the Internet browser on my phone and automatically pull up the Multimedia Toolbox web page, without me typing a single character – yes, you’ve got it! Here’s a 3-minute video from CNET (from 3/24/10) that explains a bit more about how QR codes work. Enjoy!


This nine-minute TED talk by Eli Pariser may challenge your assumptions about your web search results.

Beware Online Filter Bubbles

Interested in learning how to kick these invisible search-result gatekeepers to the curb?  Stop by the library to see Ms. DeGroat.

Now that we’re in the midst of the 3rd nine weeks, the PRIME crunch time for in-depth research papers at MLWGS, invest a few minutes in re-evaluating your home computer to assess its research readiness.

Here are a five strategies* that may improve your research efficiency when time is short and expectations are high:

  • Speed up your database searching with a password manager – they can log into databases for you and, unlike saving passwords to your browser, make your passwords available from any computer connected to the Internet. Paid products include Roboform; free ones include LastPass.
  • Enhance the organizing power and portability of your note-taking with an app designed for note-taking like the note cards feature of Noodle Tools (requires personal/school account) or free apps like Diigo or Zoho Notebook. If you have Microsoft OneNote, see the next bullet point to ensure you maximize its functionality.
  • Outfit your browser – install extensions/apps for your browser to make your note-taking faster and more complete. Examples include extensions for Diigo, OneNote, and Zoho Notebook, and the Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer extensions for dictionary look-up and translation.
  • Save a back-up copy in the cloud – nothing raises anxiety like losing all your work right before a deadline, so in addition to saving your work on your home computer, a flash/thumb drive, and/or your folder on the school server, save a copy in the cloud (online). Currently Windows Live Skydrive offers 25GB for free, 5x more than similar services. However, if 5GB will suffice for your storage needs, you may prefer the interface of a competing service like SugarSync or
  • If you’re eligible for a VCU eID, get one! – many research projects at MLWGS require analyzing primary sources.  If you’re in a VCU dual enrollment class, you’re eligible for a VCU eID this semester.  In VCU’s expansive databases, you’ll find historical newspapers, primary scientific research, and much more!

*Note: Maintain safe Internet practices and protect your privacy when using these products – MLWGS has no control over these providers or the availability of their products/services.

For more tips on improving your computer’s research readiness, stop by the MW Library to consult your resourceress!

Check out the FREE iPhone/iPod app from Gale that makes searching the MW Library’s Gale databases easier when you’re on the go.  Download the green version – select Virginia  – then scroll to Richmond and select our school.  The first time you use it, you’ll be prompted for our password (available in the MW Library or in the library’s share folder on the school network).  You won’t need to enter the password again until August.   You might notice there’s another version of this app – a blue one.  Use that one to access Gale databases available through your public library.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, copy and paste the text of three of your favorite poems into a tag cloud generator like Wordle or the new Tagxedo and see what happens.  Save  your image (4MP size should suffice) and put a copy in the Library’s – Clouds of Poetry Submissions – folder on the school’s shared server (S: drive).  Make sure you save the image with a file name that includes your first and last name and grade level so I know who you are (e.g. janesmith9_frostcloud.jpg).

Once you save your file to the share folder, stop by the library to register your entry and note the titles and authors of the three poems you used.  Selections will be posted on the library walls near the doorways.  A winner will be selected at random to receive a Starbucks gift card.  Entry deadline:  Friday, May 7th.

Here’s a Tagxedo word cloud created with Express it in Eight quotes by MLWGS students and faculty.